You want a castle on a rock – why put expensive finishes but skimp on your structures?

Almost everyone has a vision of their dream home. After the ultimate location, comes the features, painstakingly pinned on Pinterest or drooled over on Instagram – from distinctive kitchen cupboards and longed-for counter tops, to the showpiece shower head for a shower room with a exterior door that provides a seamless indoor-outdoor experience, and the rooftop party space with its panoramic views of the cityscape, countryside, barren veld or whichever setting appeals. 

It is all very well planning a castle on a rock, the home to beat all homes, which peers over its surroundings as if to shriek “I have made it. I am the absolute luxury”.

Yes, we all want a house we enjoy living in, but the pleasure of your ideal home soon dissipates when the roof leaks, the staircase wobbles and creaks, the balcony comes with a “hazardous zone: enter at your own risk” sign, and the porch is sinking – which could be signs of a shoddy structure.

By definition, “finishes” are the final touches, the things that bring an end or completion. So, unless the budget is limitless – and let’s face it, whose is? – start with securing the structure. You can always replace the taps or upgrade later to prettier wall plates, which cover light switches. It’s a far bigger, and more expensive, business to repair a faulty foundation after your imposing castle has been built.

So before you rush out to choose ceramic wall tiles for your bathroom and the water feature for your front garden, here are three tips on what it is worth spending money on if you want your home to have a sound structure and to stay like that for many years:

  1. The foundation: Get the foundation right the first time as it is difficult to rectify mistakes down the line. The foundation must be solid and it must remain in position with no cracks or sagging. It is the base on which the house is built. It is usually made of concrete because it is the strongest construction material. But creating a foundation is not just about digging in the ground and pouring concrete into it. The foundation has to take into account the condition of the soil and the angle of the site, and the type of house you are building whether single, double or even triple story. And it must be level. If the ground slopes, you need to customise the foundation.
  2. Building materials: Use good materials. Inferior building materials are not as durable, and can contribute to construction defects such as cracks and leaks. You cannot build a good quality home if you use low quality materials.  Up the standard of your structural components, and you will have a safer house too. And, if at all possible, and if it suits the style of your home, buy low-maintenance materials. They might cost more initially but will ultimately save you money because you won’t need to repair and replace them.
  3. The roof: Don’t skimp on your roof. It is an investment in the value of your home and roofing is a specialised skill. Instead of needing constant repairs, rather spend the money on ensuring it won’t leak from the word go. This includes checking that everything is sealed properly and, if you have skylights, that they are installed properly.
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